Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Oct 11, 2010

Friction Between Low-Income and Middle-Class Folks

There are a lot of news articles about rich vs. poor, but in real life there is far more friction between the poor and the middle-class.  This is because the rich and the poor seldom interact with each other.  For most of us, there isn’t much to say about the rich other than what we’ve seen and heard on television.  They are so elusive, so distant from the rest of us that friction doesn’t exist, although, if truth be told, most people envy their wealth.  Many even admire the rich because of their own desire for money and few of us would not want to be in their shoes.  That is why so many low-income and middle-class people regularly buy lottery tickets, even though their chances of winning are millions to one.
Americans are loathe to discuss class differences and even more so, friction between the poor and the middle-class.  It is time it came out into the open, because those of low income and the middle-class interact on a daily basis, whether they realize it or not.  For example, if you are middle-class, you interact with the waiter at the restaurant, the clerk at the supermarket, the cashier at the mall, the worker at the drive-through window of the fast-food place, the pizza delivery person, and the people who cut your lawn and clean your office.  Some of them you see on a regular basis and perhaps even know their first names.  What you don’t realize is that they’re being paid minimum wage, which is impossible to live on and they are struggling financially.  Do you ever wonder what goes on in their minds when you’re talking to them?  That depends on what you say.
There are many things middle-class people unknowingly do and say that irritate those of low income.  But low-income people often have low self-esteems as well, because they are looked down upon by society.  Often they will not speak up for themselves, even when someone with more money has been rude or insensitive.  On the flip side, sometimes nice people are simply unaware that they are being insensitive and just need to be enlightened.
If you are middle-class and comfortable, please know that you interact regularly with people who make less money.  Obeying the rules below will make you a kinder person.  And you never know.  In this economy, any day it could be you who is broke and who would appreciate the following rules of different-class etiquette.  Here are some of the rules on “How Not to Irritate Low-Income Folks.”
Rule #1:  Workers at Fast-Food Restaurants are Not Punching Bags
Just because you’re in a hurry, doesn’t give you the right to tell them to hurry up.  Your schedule is not their problem.  You may have some pressing appointment but you’re not the only customer, so wait your turn or come back when you have more time. 
Don’t think for a minute that it’s okay to raise your voice or belittle them because there’s been a mistake with your order.  Just because they’re serving you, doesn’t make it a master-servant relationship.  As human beings, they deserve respect.  Anyway, you’ve made mistakes on your job, too.  How would you like it if you were yelled at or belittled by a customer or boss?  You wouldn’t, so don’t do it to somebody else just because they’re working behind a counter or at a drive-through window.  If you can’t summon the decency to be nice to fast-food workers, try imagining that’s someone you love working there.  Would you want people to treat them that way?
More Rules for How Not to Irritate Low-Income People
Let us not forget the invisible poor, people with steady jobs whose financial problems are not readily apparent.  They may be first-generation middle-class, a precarious state to be in.  Though they may make more money than their parents did, they have no safety net to fall back on in a financial crisis, such as an unexpected layoff or serious illness.  They may be able to pay the rent on their modest apartment, but be assured there will come a day when crisis hits.  Their poorer relatives will not be able to help them financially and they may become virtually broke despite appearances. 
In recent years, a prolonged period of job scarcity has produced a new phenomenon – people from middle-class or even upper-middle-class backgrounds who are in foreclosure and on the brink of homelessness, but they won't tell you because society has made them feel ashamed.  They are not the typical poor (yet) and the following rules may apply when interacting with them, especially.
Rule #2:  Don’t Do This When an Aquaintance Announces Her Engagement
The bride-to-be proudly shows you the ring her fiancĂ© gave her, but you think it’s your place to comment on the size.  Stop right there.  Don’t say, “Gee, that diamond is small!”  If you do, you’ve just ruined one of the most wonderful moments in her life.  She will hate your guts and probably never speak to you again, at least not without a bad attitude.  It will be entirely your fault, because you rudely put your foot in your mouth.  You will come across as someone who has no sensitivity or manners and doesn’t know the meaning of love.
Rule #3:  When You Think You’re Too Good for Public Transportation, Think Twice
Don’t assume because you drive a car, everyone you know does, too.  Your acquaintance may have a larger family or an elderly relative to care for that requires expensive prescriptions and medical treatment.  Perhaps they may be trying to catch up financially after a setback of some kind and take the bus to avoid the outrageous costs of monthly car payments and auto insurance as well as routine maintenance and repair.  There are any number of reasons why someone who does not appear broke, actually is.  When they tell you they don’t drive, don’t say, “You take the bus?” as if it’s the same thing as committing burglary.  Taking the bus is not a crime, so don’t act like it is.  Just because you think you’re too good to take public transportation, don’t make someone else feel bad that they do.
Rule #4:  Before You Label Someone as Cheap, Consider This
I once had an acquaintance who was driving on the highway when a stone flew up from under his tire and put a large crack in his windshield.  He said he did not have the $800 dollars it would cost to fix it.  One call to his parents and they loaned him the money at zero interest.  People who don’t have that safety net end up putting it on their credit card or getting a bank loan at high interest rates and paying nearly double.  Not everyone has relatives who can afford to bail them out of financial jams at a moment’s notice.  Just because you have a similar job and make around the same pay, that doesn’t mean theirs stretches as far.  Keep this in mind when you start to call someone “cheap” because they make excuses not to join you for lunch at that expensive restaurant you’re so fond of.

1 comment:

  1. The wealthy have been pitting the poor and the middle class against one another for decades.

    That's how they continue to stay in power.

    The current crew of Republicans want to fix all that....they want to wipe out the middle class and make us all poor.

    The rich need serfs and cannon fodder for their wars.


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